Way back in early November 2021, my wife Kathy opted to replace her Chevy Equinox with a new Hyundai Tucson Hybrid.

Both compact crossovers offered a roomy interior and a placid ride with all-weather AWD, yet the Hyundai’s hybrid system promised at least 33% greater fuel economy with the added benefit of 15% more power. An operational win-win for sure, especially with the multitude of updated components and safety features in the Tucson that were not available when the Equinox was purchased in 2012.

We visited three Hyundai dealers in Maine, plus some internet shopping. After some very disappointing haggling over price — no breaks on the suggested retail, plus more money for the selected color, according to them — the selected Hyundai dealer promised delivery in 8-12 weeks. And your deposit is not refundable.

Ah, the first of what would be numerous disappointments with this revamped buying process.

After the promised delivery interval passed — by many weeks, and the flow of information from the dealership’s staff proved as accurate as the weekend weatherman — I elected to reach out to my contacts at Hyundai’s Press Fleet with whom New England’s auto-writers have access to. This proved crucial, as they claimed they could take an allotted car from somewhere else in the strained delivery system and get it to us in Maine.

In the meantime, conflicting pieces of information revealed the dealership had no idea when or if Kathy’s car would come— at all. Finally, in mid-July, a full eight-and-a-half months after ordering the Tucson, an email said we could finally buy her car.

The excitement of purchasing a new car was quickly crushed by the 90 minutes of stressful “discussions” necessary to complete the transaction. The sea blue Tucson was in fact not the car that was ordered — the sales manager sharply pointed out, but the car the Hyundai Press Staff found for her — as if that mattered. Since it had some optional equipment, and there had been a price hike, we would have to pay more.

Au contraire, Mr. Sales Manager. Our signed agreement specifically outlined we would not be responsible for any price hikes during the order period. But, “you look like honest people” he said and tried to squeeze Kathy to pay for something that we did not order — rubber floor mats and cargo items that could have easily been removed. “We aren’t charging over retail like other dealers,” like buyers should feel good about that knowing car dealers had a record profit year in 2021, making $4 million profit, on average, across the country.

“This is the car that you got from the PR staff, not the car we tried to get, so it cost more,” which was either an admission of their incompetence or a reflection of their inferior clout within their own supplier pool. Kathy is a tiny woman, but the throbbing neck veins I could feel from six feet away. This deal could go sidewise any second.

After some very protracted dickering over the finer points of integrity, Kathy prevailed and left the dealership with her new Tucson. A day later, she was still livid and stated it was absolutely the worst car-buying experience of her life.

And then the dealership sent emails stating they needed a 100% approval score on their J.D. Power new car survey or “they would be in trouble.” Imagine her outlook on that request.

One month later, Kathy loves everything about the new Tucson Hybrid. The mileage is as advertised, the features continue to wow her, and the driving experience exceeds her expectations. She is very happy with her vehicle choice. Yesterday, she had our mechanic remove the dealership labels from the car.

In early August, the industry research firm Growth from Knowledge AutoMobility released the results of their most recent loyalty surveys of new car buyers. The numbers are not flattering — the industry should be very concerned. Eighty percent of buyers paid sticker, or above for their new purchase, while 31% of buyers said they would not recommend the dealer to their friends, and 27% said they would never go back to the dealer for service.

The automakers tell us on the surface they frown on price manipulation as well as unscrupulous dealership practices — so maybe that’s why many of them want to move EV sales to direct-to-consumer transactions, skipping the dealer network — yet the destruction of long-term customer/dealer relationships like we experienced will poison the well for years.

Caveat emptor — let the buyer beware. The new car — and used car — buying experience is not what it used to be.

Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles for more than 20 years.